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Mexico City Policy ensures US funds won't force 'abortion ideology,' backers say

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- One year ago, President Trump reinstituted and expanded the Mexico City Policy, widening a ban on funding for NGOs that are involved in abortion—a ban that could shift tens of millions of dollars away from groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Backers and foes of the policy have voiced their views on the Trump administration’s expanded limitations on grants to international organizations promoting or providing abortion.

Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA the policy is needed “because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to promote abortion as an integral part of family planning – even in developing nations where abortion is against the law.”
 
“Abortion proponents assert that this policy is nothing more than powerful U.S. politicians forcing their policies on poor nations. But, frankly, the opposite is true,” Schleppenbach said, adding that the the policy “ensures that NGOs, as grantees of U.S. funds, will not themselves force their abortion ideology on countries without permissive abortion laws.”
 
The Reagan-era Mexico City Policy takes its name from the location of the 1984 United Nations conference on population and development, where the funding ban was announced. The policy was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001, repealed by Barack Obama in 2009, and again reinstated by President Donald Trump when he took office.
 
President Trump, who had not promised to implement the Mexico City Policy during his campaign, signed the executive order on Jan. 23, 2017. He instructed the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expand the Mexico City Policy, now called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” because of its increased scope. When fully implemented, it would apply to over $8.8 billion in foreign aid for global health assistance. By comparison, the previous version of the policy affected $600 million in U.S. aid for family planning programs.
 
Foes of the policy characterize it as a “gag rule.”
 
In January 2017, before the policy’s expansion, a spokesperson for International Planned Parenthood Federation said the organization could lose $100 million in annual funding for its non-abortion services. On Thursday Marie Stopes International, a U.K.-based abortion and contraceptive services provider, has estimated its own funding shortfall at $80 million, about 17 percent of its income from donations.
 
“Unless we can fill the $80 million gap created by the global gag rule, it will deprive millions of women of the contraception they need to prevent an unintended pregnancy, and it is the world’s poorest women and girls who will bear the brunt,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, Marie Stopes’ vice president and director of external affairs.
 
Marie Stopes claimed the lost resources would result in 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, and 6,900 maternal deaths.
 
The new policy could affect 1,275 foreign NGOs and about $2.2 billion in global health funding, the Kaiser Family Foundation has said.
 
Schleppenbach, however, said critics made “the same dire predictions” about widespread harm to global health care services in 2001 when President George W. Bush reinstated the policy. He thought such claims were “dishonest and sad.”

Past experience with the policy “provides little to no credible evidence to support claims that the policy will lead to dramatic adverse health consequences,” Schleppenbach said.
 
“The vast majority of Americans reject abortion as healthcare and do not want their tax dollars used for programs that promote or provide abortion as a method of family planning,” said Schleppenbach. He said the expanded policy aligns foreign aid with Americans’ views, and with other laws limiting funding for abortion and abortion providers, like the Helms Amendment and like the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which bars funding for organizations determined to be involved in coercive abortion or sterilization.
 
The NGO Human Rights Watch has advocated congressional action as a long-term strategy to provide “stability” to U.S. global health assistance.
 
“It is disruptive and counterproductive to the global health community to have the U.S. policy on foreign assistance change dramatically from one presidential administration to the next,” the NGO said in June 2017.
 
The organization advocated passage of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act, whose shortened name is the Global HER Act, which would permanently revoke the policy. Other backers of this legislation include Amnesty International.
 
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Susan B. Anthony List’s research arm, also backed the Trump administration’s policy, saying it “reflects the wishes of the American people who time and again have indicated they do not want their tax dollars used to provide abortions either domestically or overseas.”
 
He said that because some nations increase their funding for such programs when U.S. funding is cut, it is difficult to know how many millions of dollars are used for such campaigns.
 
The She Decides NGO was launched by the Dutch government to encourage donors to replace the funding cut by the Mexico City Policy. About $450 million has been raised from country donors, especially European governments, and private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In July, Melinda Gates announced the foundation would boost family planning funding by 60 percent, another $375 million over the next four years, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.
 
Lilianne Ploumen, former Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, founded She Decides. Ploumen was the focus of controversy upon news that she had been awarded the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The honor was later described by a Holy See press officer as simply a matter of protocol during a visit of the Dutch royal family, not an endorsement of Ploumen’s abortion views.
 
The pushback against the Mexico City Policy itself has funders, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Two $1 million grants from each foundation aim to track the policy’s effects in Kenya and Nepal through a research project based at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
 
The Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the school announced the research project and the grants which funded it Nov. 29, 2017, while the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported on the grants in December.
 
Another $500,000, four-year grant from the Hewlett Foundation to the Guttmacher Institute backs a “large-scale, multi-country study” on the Mexico City Policy’s impact on “sexual and reproductive health funding, services, and outcomes” in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda.
 
“Research findings will be useful for advocacy,” the foundation’s Oct. 6, 2017 grant listing said.
 
Since 2001, the Hewlett Foundation has given several million dollars to the Guttmacher Institute both for general support and support for various domestic and international projects, grant listings indicate.
 
The foundation is a major supporter of Planned Parenthood, giving tens of millions to the abortion provider’s local, U.S., and international affiliates. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Society Foundations indicated the Hewlett Foundation was a partner in a multi-million dollar campaign responding to investigations that appeared to implicate the abortion provider in the illegal procurement and sale of unborn baby parts and fetal tissue.
 

 

Scholars decode one of the last fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Haifa, Israel, Jan 22, 2018 / 12:35 pm (CNA).- The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the oldest extant biblical manuscripts, have been a topic of interest since they were discovered in the Qumran Caves in the West Bank beginning in 1946.

More recently, Israeli scholars have pieced together some of the last fragments of the ancient documents, revealing new information about the scrolls.

Dr. Eshbal Ratson and Professor Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University decoded 60 previously unread fragments over the course of a year to discover a festival marking each changing season which was celebrated by the Jews. The researchers also found the name for the festival: the Hebrew word “tekufah,” meaning “period.”

These fragments, some of which were smaller than a centimeter, identified the seasonal celebrations, which included the festivals of New Wheat, New Wine, and New Oil, which are linked to the Jewish festival of Shavuot. These celebrations were based on the 364-day Jewish calendar.

Additionally, the researchers found that a second scribe made additional notes on the scroll, correcting some mistakes and omissions made by the original author. According to Ratzon, these notes made it easier for them to decode the ancient scrolls.

“What’s nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle – they showed me how to assemble the scroll,” said Ratzon, according to the BBC.

While it is not known who penned the ancient texts, some have attributed them to the Essenes – a Jewish sect who lived in the desert. The scrolls, around 900 in number, contain Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic writing, and are thought to date to between 300 BC and AD 100.

According to The Telegraph, a statement from Haifa University said that both Ratson and Ben-Dov have moved on to decoding the last remaining scroll.

Full text of Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference from Peru

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with journalists on his return flight from Peru to Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis discussed the people of Peru and Chile, clerical sexual abuse, his recent in-flight marriage celebration, and the Amazon region, among other topics.
 
Here is CNA's full transcript of the Pope's in-flight press conference:


Greg Burke: Holy Father, thank you after a long and intense journey, at times warm, where you touched people's hearts, the holy people faithful to God, with a message of peace and hope, but also faced the challenges of the Church in Chile, the Church in Peru and also the two societies, with a special intention for the human dignity of the indigenous peoples and for the Amazon. Thank you for the opportunity to follow it closely and now let’s try to delve a bit further into the themes of the trip.

Pope Francis: Good evening and thanks for your work. It was a trip... I don’t know how you say in Italian, but in Spanish you say “pasteurized,” as you do with milk. You don’t pass from cold to hot, from hot to cold. And we passed from the south of Chile, a fresh, beautiful landscape, to the desert, the forests of Maldonado, then to Trujillo, the sea, and then to Lima. All the temperatures and all the climes. And this is tiring. Thanks so much! Now, the questions.

Greg Burke: Yes. We have questions from Peru and Chile to start. Armando Canchanya.

Pope Francis: Let’s start with those about the trip, all of them, and when we finish, if something is missing about the trip, I’ll tell you, and then the other questions if there are any.

Greg Burke: Perfect! Armando Canchanya of RPP, Perù
 
Armando Canchanya (RPP, Perù): Thanks for letting us accompany you. You went through three cities. I wanted to ask you about this trip. What does the Holy Father take with him from the trip to Peru?

Pope Francis: I take the impression of a believing people who have had many difficulties and they had them historically. But they have a faith that impresses me, not only the faith in Trujillo, where popular piety is very rich and very strong, but also the faith on the streets, and not only in Lima where evidently you see it, but also in Trujillo, also in Puerto Maldonado, where I thought to have an event in a place like this one, but it was a full square and when left for another, the streets as well. It’s a people who went out to express their joy and their faith.

It is true that you have, as it says today at noon, a saintly land. They are the Latin American people who have more saints, and high-level saints. Toribio, Rosa, Martin, Juan. High level. I believe that faith has run deep, very deep ... I take from Peru an impression of joy, of faith, of hope, of [a people] walking again, and above all, many children. I returned to that image that I saw in the Philippines and Colombia, the dads and the moms along my route raising up their kids, and that says “future.” It says “hope,” because nobody brings a child into the world if they do not have hope.
The only thing I ask is that they take care of their wealth, not only that of the churches and the museums — that the works of art are great — and not only of the suffering, that have enriched them so much, but the riches that I have seen in these days.

Greg Burke: Thank you Holy Father! Now Giovanni Hinojosa from the Republic of Peru

Giovanni Hinojosa: The political class has defrauded the people with acts of corruption and negotiated pardons, but so have members of the Church, like the Sodalitium...

Pope Francis: The problem of corruption...I wouldn't know how to respond to you historically, the progress of corruption of other countries in the world, you know that some countries in Europe there is a lot of corruption...some, not all. Yes in Latin (America) there are a lot of spotlights of corruption. Today this way of speaking about Odebrecht, for example. But this is a sample. The origin of corruption is...I would say that it is original sin which then carried...I wrote a booklet one time, very small, called "Sin and Corruption" and the motto I use is sinner yes, corrupt no. All of us are sinners, but I think that all of us here, at least I admit it on my part, treat a friend badly, steal, do drugs,or try not to...God's forgiveness is above all of this. I am not afraid of sin, I am afraid of corruption, because corruption impairs the body and the soul. And a corrupt person is so sure of themselves that they cannot go back. They are like those swamps that you try to get out of and they suck you [back]. It's a swamp. Yes, it's the destruction of the human person.

I don’t know if you want to ask something more about corruption. After I pass to the Sodalitium, no? Of course, the politician has a lot of power. The businessmen also has a lot of power. The businessmen who pays half of his workers is corrupt. And a housewife who is accustomed and believes that it is normal to exploit the maids either with salary or with the way she treats them, is corrupt. I remember a conversation I had with someone, a professional, young, 30 years old, who told me that he was carrying the thing, young, he was 30 years old. And he told me that he treated his domestic staff in a non-noble way. I told him, but you cannot do this, this is a sin. Father, he told me, we are not going to buy these people with me, these people are here for that. And this is what the sex trafficker thinks, the slave labor handler, they are corrupt.

And is there corruption in the Church? Yes, there are instances of corruption in the Church. This has always been so. Men and women of the Church have engaged in the game of corruption. And that serves as a bridge for the Sodalitium.

The situation of the Sodalitium began with the case of a person who appeared very virtuous, who died, and investigating his life, it was discovered that he had led a double life (Editor’s Note: he is referring to the case of German Doig Klinge, who died Feb. 13, 2001).  This is the first chaos of the Sodalitium that I know of, but that happened in the past, twenty or twenty five years ago. And after that, there was an allegation of abuse, not only sexual, but of manipulation of the conscience by the founder.  The case of the founder went to the Holy See, he was sentenced, he was not expelled from the Sodalitium, but he lives alone. One person attends to him.  He declares himself to be innocent of the evidence of the case and has appealed to the Apostolic Signature, which is the supreme court of justice at the Vatican. According to the information I have, the appeal will be released in less than a month.  It has been a year. But what has happened now?  That trial was the trigger for other victims of this person to make civil and ecclesial claims. If the Apostolic Signatura decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense, because many, many serious cases are accumulating. Civil justice has intervened and, in this chaos, that is necessary, it is a matter of justice. I am not very informed, but the thing is very unfavorable for the founder.

On the other hand, this was not only a personal situation, there were things that weren't clear. Almost two years ago, I named a visitator in the person of Cardinal Tobin of Newark. Since the visit, he has discovered things that he doesn't understand and that aren't clear, and I named two economic viewers. And this is the third abuse, which also went up to the founder. And after a study, he recommended a custodian for the Sodalitium. Four weeks ago I sent the letter, and two weeks ago I named [him]. Concerning the procedures, it is a similar case to that of the Legionaries, which was carried out by Benedict XVI. In this, he was very strong. He didn't tolerate these things, and from him I’ve understood not to tolerate them as well. The legal status is [that they are] under a custodian, and the apostolic visit continues.
 
Greg Burke: Now, we’re passing on to Chile, with Juan Pablo Iglesias of La Tercera.

Juan Pablo Iglesias (La Tercera): At first, your message was very strong about [clerical sexual] abuse, but the last day [in Chile] you made a statement [saying some victims] are committing slander. Why do you believe Barros more than the victims?

Pope Francis: I understand the question perfectly. On [Bishop] Barros, I only made one declaration. I spoke in Chile, and this was in Iquique, at the end. I spoke two times about the abuse, with a lot of strength, in front of the government, which was to speak in front of the country, and in the cathedral with the priests.

What I said to the priests is what I feel most deeply about this case. You know that Benedict XVI began by taking a zero tolerance [approach], and I have continued with zero tolerance. After almost 5 years of being Pope, I have not signed any "permission of pardon.” In the cases of dismissal from the clerical state, it's a definitive sentence in first instance. The person condemned has the right to appeal to the tribunal of the second instance. The tribunal knows that if there is clear proof of abuse, they cannot appeal the sentence. What can be appealed are the procedures: lack of procedures, irregularities, then there you have to make a review of the process. If the second instance confirms the first, there’s only one exit left for the person and that is appealing to the Pope, as a grace.

In five years, I have received — I don’t know the number — 20 or 25 requests for “grace” that have come in. I didn’t sign any. Only in one case, which wasn’t grace but the argument of a juridical sentence, in the first year of the pontificate.

I found myself with two sentences, one very serious from the diocese, and one from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was the strongest. The one from the diocese was very serious and very conditioned… with these conditions, one needs to wait a time to see that… that is, the case wasn’t closed. (Editor note: The comments appear to refer to the case of Italian Mauro Inzoli)

As must be done with good jurisprudence, always in favor of the accused. I opted for the most lenient sentence, with the conditions.

After two years, it was decided that the conditions weren’t completed and so I let the other work. It was the only case in which I hesitated because there were two sentences and there was a juridical principle “in dubia pro reo” and so for this I opted for that. That is my position.

In the case of Bishop Barros, I had it studied, I had it investigated, I had it worked on a lot. And truly there is no evidence. I use the word evidence. Then I will speak about proof. There is no evidence of culpability, it seems that it will not be found. There is a coherence in another sense. I am waiting for evidence to change position, but I apply the judicial principle basic in any tribunal: “nemo malus nisi provetur” — no one is guilty until it is proven.

I used the word "proof" and I believe that gave me a hard time. I said it in Spanish, as I remember, I was entering and a journalist from Iquique asked me: ‘In Chile we have a big problem with Bishop Barros, what do you think?' I think that the words I said were these. First I thought about whether to respond or not, and I said yes [I would], because he had been bishop of Iquique, and a parishioner is asking me. I said, the day that I have proof I will speak. I think I said, ‘I don’t have proof,’ but it is recorded, you can find it.

The answer was: the day that I have proof, I will speak. The word 'proof' is what caused [concern]. No one is bad “sino probetur.” I would speak about evidence and, of course, I know that there are a lot of people who have been abused and that they cannot show proof, they do not have it. They cannot [show it] or sometimes they have it, but they are ashamed and hide it, and suffer in silence. The drama of those who have been abused is tremendous. Terrible. Two [months] ago I tended to a woman who was abused 40 years ago — 40, married with three children. This woman hadn’t received Communion from that time, because in the hand of the priest she saw the hand of the abuser. She couldn't go near. And she was a believer. She was Catholic. Sorry to continue in Spanish, but I want to be precise with the Chileans. The word “proof” wasn’t the best [word to use] in order to be near to a sorrowful heart. I would say evidence.

The case of Barros was studied, it was re-studied, and there is no evidence. That is what I wanted to say. I have no evidence to condemn. And if I were to condemn without evidence or without moral certainty, I would commit the crime of a bad judge.

I have another thing to say… I’ll explain it in Italian.

One of you came up to me and said: have you seen the letter that came out? They showed me a letter that I had written years ago when the problem with Barros began. I need to explain that letter, because it is also a letter in favor of prudence, how the problem with Barros was managed. That letter does not tell of a momentary fact; that letter is the narration of more or less 10-12 months. When the scandal with Karadima was discovered, we all know this scandal, we began to see many priests who were formed by Karadima who were either abused or who were abusers. In Chile there are four bishops who Karadima invited to the seminary. Someone from the episcopal conference made a suggestion that it would be better perhaps if these four bishops renounced their positions, resigned, took a sabbatical year while the storm passed, to avoid accusations, because they are good bishops.

And Barros, Barros already had been bishop there for 20 years and was about to finish his military bishopric. He was an auxiliary, then bishop of Iquique and then military bishop for almost 10 years, and 20 years a bishop. But let us ask if the accusations against him, perhaps explaining them...and he diligently resigned. And he came to Rome and I told him: ‘No, we don't play this way, because this is to admit culpability in advance, and then, as in any case, if there are culpable parties, it will be investigated.’ And I rejected it. This is about the 10 months contained in that letter. Then, when he was appointed and all this protest took place, he gave me his resignation for the second time. I said, ‘No, you go.’ I spoke with him for a long time, others spoke at length with him… you go. You know what happened there the day he took possession, the protests. They continued to investigate Barros, but there is no evidence and this is what I wanted to say: I cannot condemn him because I don't have the evidence and this is what I wanted to say. I cannot condemn him because I do not have the evidence. But I am also convinced that he is innocent.

I will pass to a third point, that of the letter I explained clearly: what those who have been abused feel. With this I have to ask forgiveness because the word "proof" wounded, it wounded many people who were abused, but I must go to look for the certificate, I have to do that — a word on translation, in the legal jargon, I wounded them. I ask them for forgiveness because I wounded them without realizing it, but it was an unintended wound. And this horrified me a lot, because I had received them. (But) in Chile I received two [abuse victims] as you know, I met others that I kept hidden. In every trip, there is always some possibility. The ones in Philadelphia were published, three (meetings) were published, then the other cases no… And I know how much they suffer, to feel that the Pope says in their face ‘bring me a letter, a proof.’ It's a slap. And I agree that my expression was not apt, because I didn't think, and I understand how the Apostle Peter, in one of his letters, says that the fire has been raised. This is what I can say with sincerity. Barros will remain there if I don't find a way to condemn him. I cannot condemn him if I don't have — I don't say proof — but evidence. And there are many ways to get evidence. Is that clear?

(They announce turbulence on the plane)

They tell me that after the turbulence of Barros and the Sodalitium, we have a more meteorological one...I’ll stay here.

(He sits in a row of seats with the journalists during the turbulence).

Matilde Burgos, CNN Espanol: (Follow up question about Bishop Barros and about a possible distance between the Pope and the people in Chile)

Pope Francis: The case maybe started with the bad decision of the resignation, and he began to be accused. But there is no evidence of abuse. Covering up an abuse is abuse. There is no evidence. There isn’t. The best they believe is this, to provide the evidence quickly. If you think it is like this honestly. I, in this moment, do not think it is so, because there is none. But my heart is open to receive it.

And the other from Chile is made up.


I came from Chile happy, I did not expect that many people in the street. And they weren’t paying an entry fee. The people were not paid nor taken in collectively. The spontaneity of Chile was very strong, even in Iquique, and I thought it was going to be a little thing. But you saw what it was. In the south, the same and in Santiago, the same. The streets of Santiago spoke for themselves.

In this, I think that the responsibility of the informant is to go to the concrete facts. There was this, and this. The thing about a divided people, I do not know where it comes from, it is the first time I hear of it. Maybe Barros is the cause of this, but placing it in its reality it could be because of this. But my impression of Chile was very strong and rewarding. Then, I would like to go back a moment to what most moved me about Chile, at least a moment.

Greg Burke: Let's move on to the Italian group. Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider.

Andrea Tornielli (Vatican Insider/La Stampa): Your Holiness, I wanted to talk about what you said in the past day in the Amazon, because there was a new element in that speech: not only the threat posed by the big economic groups, but also the threat — indeed you have talked about perversion — of some environmental policies that end up stifling people's lives. So is there an environmentalism that is against man?
 
Pope Francis: Yes, yes in that area, I could not at this moment describe it well, but to protect the forest and to save some tribes who ended up outside the forest, because the forest is being finished by exploitation. But the most concrete fact of this case is in the statistics of the area. You will surely find the precise data. It is a phenomenon of preserving the environment and then isolating it, they have remained isolated from real progress. The number that was given there, in that area, the information they sent to prepare the trip, I have studied it.

Greg Burke: Aura Miguel, of Radio Renascenca.

Aura Miguel (Radio Renascenca): The wedding on the airplane. From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops will be asked by couples if they can marry them I don’t know where, on the beach, on boats, airplanes?

Pope Francis: You’re imagining a cruise with a wedding. Eh, this would be… One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things. The thing was simple. The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him… then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. A nice chat. Then, the day after both of them were there and after we took a photograph, they told me this: ‘We were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before’ - you could tell it was a small city - ‘the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding.’ This was 10 years ago, maybe eight, the earthquake was in 2010, eight years ago. And then [they thought]: “tomorrow we’ll do it,” and “the day after tomorrow.” That’s the way life goes and then the daughter [came] and another daughter. I interrogated them a bit. And the answers were clear, for their whole life…. “You know these things. Do you have a good memory of the catechism?” “We have taken the pre-matrimonial classes.” They were prepared and I judged that they were prepared. They asked me. Sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear and why not do today … and not delay it for tomorrow… and maybe after ‘tomorrow’ it  would have been eight or 10 years more. This is the answer. I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance. When they had arrived at that point, it was all over. They told me that, they said it to some of you… “We’re going to the Pope to ask if he’ll marry us.” That’s how the thing went. But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well. And then they had done the pre-marriage course, and they were aware.

Greg Burke: Holiness, we’ve done almost an hour, but I don’t know if we can still do one or two [questions].

Pope Francis: Yes, about the trip.

Greg Burke: On the trip. Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Pope Francis: Yes, because about Peru, almost nothing [has been asked].

Nicole Winfield (AP): Ah, no more Chile... Holy Father, yesterday Cardinal O’Malley made a statement on these comments about Bishop Barros and he said that words such as these are a source of pain for the survivors of abuse with the effect of making them feel abandoned and discredited… you said that you didn’t feel well [at knowing the victims felt abandoned], and I imagine, I wonder if it was precisely the words of Cardinal O’Malley that made you realize the pain [caused], and then a question linked to this: the Commission for the Protection of Minors, led by Cardinal O’Malley. There was the expiration last month of the first members. There are people who see in this expiration, they ask themselves if this is a sign of a “non-priority” of the protection of minors.

Pope Francis: I understand, I understand. On Cardinal O'Malley, I saw his statement, and he said, "the Pope has always upheld this, the Pope has zero tolerance, the Pope said the other.. with this unhappy expression."
 
And this has made me think of the word "proof." [It is] calumny, [if] anyone says with obstinacy, without evidence, that he did this, he did that... it is calumny. If I say that he stole and he did not steal, then I am slandering [him], because I do not have evidence, I do not have evidence that he did that to them.

But I have not heard of any victim of Barros... they have not come, they have not given evidences of the judgment. It is a little up in the air. It is a thing that you cannot assume.

You, with goodwill, tell me: there are victims [of Bishop Barros, or of the alleged coverage of Bishop Barros]. But I have not seen them because they have not come to me. It is true that Barros was part of the group of young men [around Karadima]. Barros entered the seminary, I don't know when, but he has been a bishop 24 years. He was probably a priest 15 years, many years. He entered as a very young man,... he says that he did not see it, he was part of the group but then he went another way. And on this we should be clear. One that accuses without evidence, with obstinacy, this is calumny.

But if a person comes and gives me the evidence, I am the first to listen to him. We should be just. I have an appreciation for Cardinal O'Malley, I thank him for his statement because it was very just. He said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of the victims. Not in this case, in general. Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring [forward] a document or a testimonial.

The commission was appointed for 3 years I believe, it has expired. I will study a new commission and they, the same commission, decided to renew a part, to nominate new members and others renew. But also before the start of the trip, the definitive list of the commission has come, and now it follows (that) there were some observations on someone that they should clarify, because they are studying the new people. There were two observations that they should clear up. Cardinal O'Malley has worked well, has worked as he should. No, please, do not think that... the time has been a normal amount of time for a nomination of people.

Greg Burke: Holiness, we’ll do a final question, if it’s about the trip.

Unknown Journalist: One of the aims of the Church is to fight against poverty. Chile, in 20 years has lowered the poverty level to 11 percent. Is it, in your perspective, the result of a liberal political [system]? Is there good in liberalism, do you think? I have another small question regarding Cardinal Maradiaga: what do you think of the news of money that regards him? Thanks.

Pope Francis: About Cardinal Maradiaga, it’s not from the trip but I will answer: he has made a signed statement. I say what he said.

About liberalism, I will say that we have to study the cases of liberal politics well. There are other countries in Latin America with liberal politics. I’m not a technician, but in general a liberal political [system] that doesn’t engage all of the peoples, leads downwards. I don’t know in Chile but we see that in other Latin American countries, things are going down.

About the trip, I would like to say something that really moved me: the women’s jail. Well, I have an ever sensitive heart… I’m very sensitive the jails and inmates. I always ask myself about jails, why them and not me. But, to see these women, to see the creativity of these women, the capacity for change, their capacity to change their lives, to reinsert themselves in society with the force of the Gospel. One of you told me that I saw the joy of the children. It moved me. And, I was very moved by that meeting, one of the most beautiful things of the trip. Then, at Puerto Maldonado, that meeting with the indigenous. We are there because obviously - in a moment you’re in their world, no? - that day was the first meeting of the Synod for the Amazon, which will be in 2019. I was so moved by the “Hogar Principito”, to see these kids, the majority abandoned, those young boys and girls who were able, with education, to move ahead. They are professionals. It moved me so much. It’s a work to bring the person upwards. This moved me so much.

Then, the people, the warmth of the people. And today it was unbelievable what was there. The warmth of the people, and I say this nation has faith. This faith was contagious for me and I thank God, and I thank you for the work that awaits you, to write articles and news on the questions you’ve asked me. Thanks for your patience and thanks for the questions. Many thanks.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness, for you patience. Have a good rest and a good dinner.

 

Mid-air marriage was to avoid further delay, Pope Francis explains

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Addressing concerns Monday about the pastoral implications of his witnessing a marriage aboard a plane while in flight, the Pope said that he judged the couple to be prepared for the sacrament, and didn't wish them to delay the regularization of their situation any longer.

“All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow? Tomorrow would possibly have been eight or 10 years from now,” Pope Francis said Jan. 22 while en route from Lima to Rome.

Aura Miguel of Radio Renascenca had asked him about his Jan. 18 witnessing of the marriage of two flight attendents, Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, while en route from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.

The Pope's decision had raised questions among commentators and various priests concerning the liceity and even the validity of the marriage. Miguel asked, “From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops, whom fiances are going to ask to marry them I don’t know where – on the beach, on boats, on airplanes?”

Pope Francis noted to those on the plane that “One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things,” but responded that “the thing was simple: The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him; then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life: of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. It was a nice chat.”

“Then the day afterwards both of them were there, and when we took a photograph, they told me this: 'we were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before' – you could tell it was a small city – 'the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding'. This was 10 years ago; maybe eight – the earthquake was in 2010, so it was eight years ago. And then 'tomorrow we'll do it', and 'the day after tomorrow' – and that's the way life goes. And then the daughter, and another daughter.”

“I interrogated them a bit,” Pope Francis explained. “And the answers were clear.” They had taken marriage preparatory classes. “They were prepared and I judged that they were prepared,” he said.

“They asked me. And sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow?”

“This is the answer,” he said. “I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance … that’s how the situation went.”

“But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well,” he said. “And that they had done the pre-marriage course.”

Pope Francis: Final verdict on Sodalitium founder likely 'unfavorable'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On board the papal flight from Lima to Rome, Pope Francis said a final Vatican verdict on the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, accused of serial sexual and psychological abuse, will soon be available, and likely won't be in the founder’s favor.

Speaking to the 70-some journalists on board his Jan. 21 LATAM flight, the Pope said the case of the founder, Luis Fernando Figari, is currently before the court of appeals in the Apostolic Signatura, and “will be released in less than a month.”

“I am not very informed, but the thing is very unfavorable for the founder,” he said.

Francis spoke during an inflight press conference on his return flight to Rome following a Jan. 15-21 trip to Chile and Peru.

Although the crisis in the Sodalitium did not come up in any of the Pope's public speeches or audiences in Peru, it has had an enormous impact on the Church in the country since scandals involving Figari became publicly known in 2015.

When asked by a journalist about corruption in the Church, Pope Francis admitted that there are cases, saying “this has always been so. Men and women of the Church have engaged in the game of corruption.”

Regarding the Sodalitium in particular, the Pope noted that the group, a Catholic society of apostolic life, first began to experience scandals when it was discovered that German Doig, a prominent member of the community who died and whose cause for canonization had been opened, had been leading a double life.

“This is the first chaos of the Sodalitium that I know of,” Francis said, explaining that scandals involving the founder came later with allegations “not only sexual, but of manipulation of the conscience.”

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was established by Figari in 1971 in Peru, and was granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the community.

In addition to founding the SCV, a community of men, Figari also founded the Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Servants of the Plan of God, a community of women and an order of women religious, respectively. In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010, after allegations of abuse surfaced in Peru. The current superior general is Alessandro Moroni Llabres.

The community gained attention after the publication of a 2015 book by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV.

In May 2016 the Pope named Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Newark as the pontifical delegate charged with overseeing the community's handling of the investigation and their process of reform.

In February of 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

However, Figari has maintained his innocence, and following the decision of the Vatican's congregation for religious institutes in 2017, made an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, which is the Vatican's supreme court.

In his comments, Francis said the initial trial and investigation were “the trigger for other victims of this person to make civil and ecclesial claims.”

“If the Apostolic Signature decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense,” he said, “because many, many serious cases are accumulating.”

Francis said that in addition to sexual and psychological abuse, Cardinal Tobin also found financial irregularities during his investigation that were linked to Figari, prompting him to name an official commissioner to oversee the order alongside Cardinal Tobin as they work to carry out reform.

Shortly before traveling to Peru, on Jan. 10, Francis named Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the Sodalitium.

In his role, Londoño, Bishop of Jericó, will oversee the community as they continue a process of reform. He will carry out his work alongside Cardinal Tobin, who will continue to be the group’s liaison with the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and will focus primarily on reforming economic matters.

Pope Francis said the steps he is taking in the Sodalitium case are similar “to that of the Legionaries, which were carried out by Benedict XVI. And in this he was very strong. He didn't tolerate these things, and I understood from him not to tolerate them.”

“The legal status is [that they are] under a custodian and the apostolic visit continues,” he said.

The case of the Legionaries to which Pope Francis referred involved a charismatic founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, who was revealed to have lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006, with the approval of the Pope Benedict, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith imposed upon Maciel “a retired life of prayer and penance, renouncing any form of public ministry.” Due to his advanced age, Maciel was not the subject of a formal canonical trial.

From that point on, Benedict XVI carried out a process of reform for the Legionaries, and in 2010 named then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as papal delegate to serve in a role similar to what Londoño will have for the SVC.

After his appointment, De Paolis formed a commission charged with drafting new constitutions for the Legionaries. He completed his mandate in 2014 when the new constitutions were approved by Pope Francis. The cardinal died in September 2017.

 

Francis says comments on sexual abuse in Chile were 'not the best'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 08:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Aboard the papal plane from Lima to Rome Sunday, Pope Francis said that comments made to Chilean journalists Jan. 18 were not intended to cause pain for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Francis said that he had meant to explain to Chileans that because he has not seen evidence that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros helped to cover up acts of sexual abuse, it would be unjust to condemn him.

The pontiff said that his use of “the word 'proof' was not the best in order to draw near to a suffering heart.”

The Pope asked for forgiveness from victims he may have wounded, stating that unintentionally causing them harm “horrified” him, especially after he met with victims in Chile, as he has done on other trips, such as to Philadelphia in 2015.

“I know how much they suffer, to feel that the Pope says in their face 'bring me a letter, proof,' it's a slap,” he said.

He also explained that he is aware that victims may not have brought forward evidence because it is unavailable, or because they are otherwise ashamed or afraid.

“Barros’ case was studied, it was re-studied, and there is no evidence,” Francis told journalists Jan. 21. “That is what I wanted to say. I have no evidence to condemn him. And if I condemn him without evidence or without moral certainty, I would commit the crime of a bad judge.”

“If a person comes and gives me evidence,” he continued, “I am the first to listen to him. We should be just.”

Barros is accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding to cover up the crimes of his longtime friend, Fr. Fernando Karadima. Francis has long defended Barros, who claims to be innocent. Barros has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

Karadima, who once led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque, was convicted of sexually abusing minors in a 2011 Vatican trial, and at the age of 84, he was sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

During his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, Pope Francis met with abuse survivors, but when questioned about Barros by journalists on his last day in the country, he said, “the day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

The Pope's comment was met with fierce opposition, as critics said he was insensitive to abuse victims.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and one of nine members of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals, issued a statement Jan. 20 voicing criticism of the Pope’s remarks.

“It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” O’Malley said.

“Words that convey the message 'if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” he said.

Since he was not personally involved in the Chilean cases, O'Malley said he couldn't speak as to why the Pope chose to use the specific words he did when responding to reporters.

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

“Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime,” O'Malley said, adding that Francis' many statements insisting on a “zero-tolerance” policy for abuse in the Church “are genuine and they are his commitment.”

During the press conference, the Pope said that he had seen O’Malley’s statement and that he has appreciation for the cardinal: “I thank him for his statement because it was very just.”

“[O'Malley] said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of victims” in general, Francis said. “Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring [forward] a document or a testimonial.”

Aboard the flight, the Pope also explained the background of letter he wrote to Barros two years ago, and which has recently surfaced.

The letter illustrates a dialogue of 10-12 months between him and Barros, he said, beginning at the time the scandal concerning Karadima was revealed.

Francis said that at that time, someone from the Chilean bishops' conference suggested that the four bishops who had been close to Karadima should resign or take a sabbatical year until the scandal had passed over, “because they are good bishops.”

At this time, Barros, who had been a bishop since 1995, followed this advice and submitted his resignation to the Holy See. Pope Francis said that he did not allow the bishop's resignation, because to do so would be “to admit culpability in advance,” in his opinion. And in this case, as in any, “if there are culpable parties, it will be investigated.”

In 2015, when Francis appointed Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, there were protests, and again, Barros submitted his resignation, Francis said.

“I spoke with him for a long time, others spoke at length with him...” We all told him to continue as bishop, the Pope noted.

“They have continued to investigate Barros, but there is no evidence and this is what I wanted to say: I cannot condemn him because I don't have the evidence... But I am also convinced that he is innocent.”

O'Malley is the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which just concluded a 3-year mandate in December. The Vatican has not issued any statements on the the commission since its expiration, causing some to speculate on the future of its existence.

In the most recent meetings of the Council of Cardinals, O'Malley spoke on the commission's continued work, explaining that it is in the Pope's hands to decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.

In the presser, Francis said that before the start of his trip, he had received a list of recommendations for new members, which he is now studying. The Pope did not say whether O'Malley would be reappointed.

Serving isolated parishes may mean ordaining married men, cardinal says

Pope apologizes to sex abuse victims, defends accused Chilean bishop

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PERU (CNS) -- Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.

Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims' accusations are credible only with concrete proof.

"To hear that the pope says to their face, 'Bring me a letter with proof,' is a slap in the face," the pope said.

Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.

His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima's victims who said the pope's response made his earlier apologies for the church's failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.

Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word "evidence," not "proof." The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was "not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart."

"Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don't have it," he said. "Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous."

However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight that he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was "personally convinced" of the bishop's innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging.

Pope Francis said that while "covering up abuse is an abuse in itself," if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, "I would be committing the crime of a bad judge."

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes.

As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip.

Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope's statement about Bishop Barros.

"Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile," the cardinal wrote.

He also said, "Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones."

The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O'Malley's statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope's remarks.

Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.

The movement's founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement.

"He declared himself innocent of the charges against him," Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. According to the information the pope has received, he said, "the verdict will be released in less than a month."

Pope Francis also was asked about the status of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up in 2014. The three-year terms of its members expired in December and some have questioned whether child protection really is a priority when the commission's membership was allowed to lapse.

Before the terms ended, he said, the members decided to recommend who should serve a second term and offering the names of possible new members.

The final list, he said, arrived on his desk a week before the trip began "and now it is going through the normal channels in the Curia.

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Pope apologizes to sex abuse victims, defends accused Chilean bishop

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